When you think of a “young professional” what comes to mind? Is it a recent grad tackling their first job out of college or maybe someone in their mid-to-late twenties just starting to gain traction on their career path?
Very rarely do people (myself included) think of “young professionals” as someone in their 30s. Why is that? I'm 30 and a proud member of YNPN. I fly my young professional flag high. And yet, the words “young professional” still make me think of someone in their 20s. Do you know why? Because I always imagined that by the time I was 30, I’d have all my stuff together.
I mean, come on, it’s 30. By 30 you have a car, a house, a great job, a significant other, a few kids, a pet, and a magical closet in your house where all your random kitchen gadgets, sweaters, and miscellaneous cords (you know, the ones you never know what to do with) are all nice sorted and labeled. You probably go for a jog every morning. You are freaking Martha Stewart by the time you hit 30. Right? RIGHT!?
Nope. That’s a big nope. That’s Michelle-Obama-encouraging-children-to-stop-exercising-and-watch-Netflix-and-eat-donuts-all-day level nope. Which is, honestly, a more realistic picture of what 30 can look like. Way less Martha, way more donut. So, what do you get when you mix ridiculous expectations with fabricated life deadlines? You get a crisis. You get the “30-Year Crisis.”
Let me assure you, the 30-Year Crisis is very real. If you are 30, if you have ever been 30, or if you know someone who is turning 30, you know what I’m talking about. But that’s the thing. No one ever talks about it. We all just assume that everyone else has it together. But, here’s the big secret: We don’t. No one does. So, in the interest of saving us all some major stress, I’m here to say it. I had a 30-Year Crisis. It’s real, it’s emotional and I also survived. I want to help you, or someone you know, get through it too.
Wondering whether or not you’re having a 30-Year Crisis? Here are some basic trends I found while conducting research on how to get through my own crisis. (Note: My research methods include interrogating all my friends, my parents and surviving my fiancé’s 30-Year Crisis.) Your standard 30-Year Crisis can begin anywhere from 3-6 months before you turn 30, and last for about 1-3 months after your birthday. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
- Panicking because you’re not married or are getting married
- Panicking because you don’t have kids/aren’t sure you want kids/are having kids
- Panicking because you don’t own a house or because you are buying a house
- Panicking because now you are old and all your hair will turn grey
- Panicking because now you are old and you have to be boring and responsible
- Panicking because your 20s were so fun but now that you are 30, your life is basically over
- Panicking because you don’t like your job/aren’t on the career trajectory you want/don’t know what career trajectory you want
- Panicking because every single person around you (literally, every one of them) has all of this stuff figured out and you are the only one who doesn’t
It’s OK. Look at me. Take a deep breath in. Now let it out. Take another breath in. Let it out.
That’s an intense list, right? But, the good news is, you probably know a lot of people who have successfully turned 30. You can do it too! For real, you can do this. To show you how much I believe in you, here are three things that helped me survive mine.
1. You are not alone
Say it with me. You are not alone. This is completely normal. Lots and lots of people are feeling and have felt this way. Don’t be afraid to reach out and start conversations. You’d be surprised how many people responded with, “OMG YES, YOU TOO!?” when I approached the subject of the 30-Year Crisis.
2. Get some perspective
The type of perspective you need is likely relative to your unique situation. Here are a few things to consider.
- Maybe limit your social media time. Nothing says “crisis” like a constant stream of newborn/engagement/wedding/just-bought-a-house selfies.
- Worried about your career? Think of it this way – you have already lived 30 years. Think of everything you’ve every accomplished in those 30 years. You learned to walk, you learned to read, you’ve already got job experience under your belt. If you plan to retire by the time you’re 65 you have that entire lifetime over plus a few extra years. You have lots of time to do interesting work.
- If you think 30s mean you are old and boring, I encourage you to find examples of people who are not old and boring. Notorious R.B.G. is 83 (turning 84 in March!) and you will not ever convince me she is old and boring.
3. Take this as an opportunity to reassess the type of life you want to be living
When I was mid-crisis, someone gave me some very good advice. Usually, the things we worry about reflect something we feel is missing. So it may not be so much the job or the partner or the pet that we are worried about, but something bigger. Do you want to live a more connected life? Re-prioritize spending time with people you care about. Do you worry about being old and boring? Maybe turn off the Netflix and take a class that interests you. Is it the job, or is it your desire to do work you find interesting? You get to decide, every day, how you want to live your life. Turning 30 can be a good motivator to take a look and what you love and what you don’t need to spend so much energy on.
So, what do you think
Should we shake off this fear of talking about our completely imperfect lives and make the world a little easier for ourselves and everyone else? What was your 30-Year Crisis like, and what did you do that helped?